Internet of Things has already passed that mark of development where its achievements can be confidently integrated into diverse fields and scopes disregarding their challenges and importance. From manufacturing and mining to Smart Home and City it already started to change the space and processes that we live and participate in.
Despite the proven potential for the global distribution and integration of IoT hardware architecture, it has a steep learning and integration curve for its adopters that slows down the digital transformation across fields and its contribution in particular. From devices to management solutions - the quality and efficiency require at least comprehension of basics from business owners.
IoT deployment it’s much more than integrating a solution. It’s about creating an ecosystem within an established environment it should be properly adjusted to. It also implies robust architecture to ensure its independence and stability as well as regular monitoring and maintenance to assure uninterrupted operation and flawless fulfilling of the initial purpose.
IoT architecture basics
Despite all the variety of applications, there are not a lot of IoT architecture types that share some structural elements. It starts from the most-known part of the systems - embedded or separated devices. More exactly saying, their sensors and detectors that are responsible for the gathering of the required information about the environment. That data then should be passed through the next part of the structure.
For the collected data acquisition should exits gateways or similar systems that should be able to handle the dedicated data flow - perform a digital conversion, filtering and pre-processing to provide the material for the following architecture block.
The essential stage of the operation of any IoT ecosystem is data processing and analysis before it can be presented to users in a suitable form. This part is also where the system enters other advanced technologies like AI, machine learning and data science which approaches raising the level of scrupulosity and comprehension of the mentioned processes.
The next block is the basis of the whole system - the infrastructure for the secure storage, appropriate management and more complex analysis of the necessary type and amount of data. There are four possible options for the issue - on-premise, cloud or edge computing and hybrid.
Let’s examine it in detail.
IoT architecture layers
There are three main stages any data should go through to ensure the fulfillment of the system purpose: sensor - gateway - infrastructure.
Any technology that empowers digital transformation is driven by data that should be accurately and timely captured. Sensor-equipped devices or objects allow measuring or picking up diverse physical parameters and telemetry that has value for further research.
Such possibilities allowed IoT to be introduced to non-technical fields like agriculture to help it on a par with others enter the digital era and open a new era in development. For instance, in this scope, it allows centralizing monitoring and speed up the reaction on undesired changes and minimize the odds of its appearance.
However, sensor systems aren’t complete without actuators that transform data into necessary actions without human supervision. It enables full automation of the different routine physical processes improving their accuracy and regularity on a long-term basis. It allows outsourcing to machines procedures in difficult conditions including life-threatening.
Each sensor collection can have a certain topology that improves the bidirectional interaction between the elements. In some cases, the appropriate level of connectivity between devices is even more vital than between acquisition systems and gateways. What’s important it should be supported in real-time unrevealing the necessity of management solutions.
One of the layer challenges is to balancing up needs of devices (required resources for proper operation including energy, bandwidth, etc.) and the whole system's purpose. That’s why the strong system should be combined with the choices of suitable for IoT architecture standards and communication protocols to ensure efficiency during the available periods.
Gateways and data acquisition
The necessary connection point between devices and data centers. Perhaps it couldn’t be considered as a complete layer rather than an extender in-between. However, the stage is important for data collection and transmission. It allows avoiding the system overload, filtering unnecessary and passing through each data type to the required databases.
Other layer roles are to convert data into an appropriate form, further transfer, and processing to other architecture components and secure it to avoid reading losses, damages, and even attacks. The vulnerability of IoT systems is one of the biggest scope challenges nowadays. That’s why data should be encrypted as soon as it adopts a digital form.
The type of data storage depends on the system's purpose and business possibilities since each of them requires different maintenance efforts and features concerning the speed, storage, structure, access, and security. On-premise centers valued by safety, cloud for the low cost and easy approach, while edge - for flexibility and fast response.
According to the market growth tendency ($3.24 billion by 2025) the last option earns the appreciation these days. It diminishes location to data sources in comparison to cloud that accelerates data flows and narrows down the network raising its security initially and reducing consumption of energy, bandwidth and other resources required for the proper operation.
However, cloud systems don’t quickly lose their consumers since it allows to handle more massive volumes of data and its more comprehensive analysis than edge computing. Its value marked by the further and further adoption by the stream entitled Industry 4.0 that lays a high level of responsibility on IoT network architecture and devices.
The use cases show that integration of IoT brings manufacturing and production closer to cost-efficiency and accuracy improvement. The same tendency is shown in healthcare, supply chain, etc. On the other hand, the technology is quite user-friendly allowing supply business with required intelligence through ERP and similar systems and its visualization via dashboards and reporting.
Platforms and applications
Although it can be considered as one of the IoT architecture components it’s a solution for the management of the whole system that varies depending on its topology, layer specifics, users, etc. It can be presented in the form of advanced software that includes comprehensive analytics and predictive forecasting or is limited to remote control of the system operations.
IT sector makes its contribution to the scope so the solutions can be accessed through all available platforms - web, mobile, desktop or specific - without significant efforts. Considering that any IoT use case might be taken as unique, custom development of systems has a big share on the market along with ready solutions from global leaders like IBM, SAP, and Xiaomi.
Each IoT architecture development as any task on the long list of company digital transformation starts with research and analysis of the existing conditions and possible options to find a secure and scalable formula for the current and future needs. Basing on the efficient interaction IoT is all about appropriate compatibility and connectivity to be able to fulfill its purpose.